Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Loneliness

"We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness." Could not have said it better, Albert Schweitzer. Thanks, buddy.

Now, by all rights, this shouldn't even be a battle. I am never alone. I don't even pee alone. I am constantly surrounded by hands and needs and voices from early in the morning until the middle of the night when the "Mommys" start. You know the "Mommys", right? You are "Mom" all day long; that short address that is usually on the end of demands for cheese sticks and swing pushes. But then the sun sinks and the tougher requests start to tag onto the end of the Mommy title, usually issued in whine or cry mode. "Mommy, are there monsters in the closet?" "Mommy, you are never gonna die, right?" Mommy, can I sleep with you and Daddy?" Sometimes, Mommy is just shouted in the dead of night, in response to someone's nightmare, a magical word that banishes danger, soothes the speaker, and summons assistance all at once. I wish the actual mommy was as magical as her title, but I do what I can.

But back to being lonely. There is no reason for this but it still happens with frighteningly regularity. Not everyday, but sometimes, it just hits. And when it hits, it hits hard. I am lonely if we stay home. I am lonely if we go out. I am lonely even when Super Preschooler wants to talk my ear off about what would be the best plant to be when the zombies invade. I think it is just the lot of the stay-at-home mom to be lonely on occasion. But you know what, I don't think it is that. It is probably everyone's lot to be lonely on occasion.

I go to the park and I watch the other parents deal with the loneliness. I mean, I assume they are lonely too. If it is just me, don't tell me. I don't want to be weird one. Again. So, I watch the ones who stay on their phones the whole time. The ones who follow their kids around the whole time. The ones who just say forget it and pull out a book. The ones who never come to the park without an adult friend to talk to. The ones who might be sleeping on that bench over there, I can't quite tell. The ones who will talk to anyone who comes within 10 feet of them. The ones who stare off into the middle distance and think deep thoughts or maybe just plan their shopping lists. The ones that play on the park stuff themselves and you are not sure if they have kids there or not. The ones who eat the whole time, which might be me. The ones who sit there, desperately glancing around and mentally begging anyone to talk to them. Anyone. Anyone at all. Even that strange lady who is picking what looks like poison ivy over there by the bushes and talking to herself. Really, anyone at all. Someone please talk to me!!! Which is definitely me.

I love my children. I love the stories they tell me. I love when they need me. I love watching them not need me. I love teaching them stuff. I love talking to them. I really really do. But they are 5, 3, and 1, and not likely to want to discuss Mad Men or the situation in Syria or the new royal baby. Wait, I take that back; Super P. totally wants to talk about the royal baby. But my children are less likely to explore with me my complex feelings about motherhood and whether or not my failure as a stay-at-home mom is more related to my lack of interest in making my own soap or my general lack of culinary interest. It isn't their job to hold my hand and let me cry on the hard days, when I just want my mom to show up and tell me what to do. When I am tired of being the only grown-up around. When I just served Mac and Cheese for lunch for the 4th day in a row and am terrified that I am slowly poisoning my children with processed cheese powder.  When I can't hear myself think because of the requests for water or dress-up shoes or Netflix or cake or markers or legos or playdough or diapers or milk or a hug or endless attention or glue or freezie-pops or sibling reprimands or bandaids.

But it is so much worse when they don't want anything and the silence descends. And it is so noisy. "Why can't Super Toddler read yet?" "Super Preschooler is so small. He is totally malnourished." "What doesn't Super Baby talk about anything other than food?" "Why aren't we eating organic?" "You really should get that parenting book everyone is reading, but you won't." "Why are you such an awful mother?" "You are always losing your temper. Other moms don't lose their tempers like you do." "We have been in Ann Arbor 3 years and you are no closer to fitting in than you were in week 1, what is wrong with you?" "Is it just a matter of rebelling? Because that isn't doing your children any favors, now is it? Children of Awkward Mom. That sounds fun." "You shouldn't even be blogging about this, everyone is gonna think you are a big loser. Well, more of a big loser then."

AH! If I just had someone to talk to, this wouldn't be happening. Well, it would happen. But then I would say something, and the person would say, "That is crazy, you are fine. Want some ice cream?" "Why yes, friend, I would love some ice cream. Thanks!" "No problem, friend." That is what I am looking for; a that-is-crazy-you-are-fine friend. I suppose my problem is that I think I shouldn't need that. I am strong. I am grown. I am the mother of 3 children, and it is my job to be the that-is-crazy-you-are-fine person. Which I can do. I actually do it quite well. Maybe that is the problem. I do it. And do it. And heed the Mommys in the dead of the night. And do it again. And maybe, after all that pouring out of emotional ice cream, all that is left is the stickiness at the bottom of the bowl soul. The "you aren'ts" "you can'ts" "you will never bes." I am starting to think that my problem isn't that I am lonely. It is that I don't want to be alone with my own ice-cream-residue thoughts. Which is a whole different battle, right? The life-long kind. Sigh. I am gonna go get some actual ice cream and think about my battle strategy here. Talk to you guys later!

"No one ever discovers the depth of his own loneliness." Uh. Gee, thanks for that cheery thought, Georges Bernanos.

Don't feel too sorry for her. She has ice cream and is looking at this. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Awkward Grandpa vs. Birthdays

"She got her looks from her father. He's a plastic surgeon."

Groucho is right, you know. I did get my looks from my father, but no, he is not a plastic surgeon. I still think he would like that joke. Here is my father:

Groovy shirt.

Here is me:

With the requisite cat, of course. 

And here is Super Toddler:

No plastic surgery required. Just all good old awkward genes. 

Today is my father's birthday. It is also his identical twin's birthday. Imagine that:

Can't beat cowboy cake.

I don't talk a lot about Awkward Grandpa on here. He just isn't as awkward as the rest of us. Oh, he gets mustard on his shirt with some regularity and he has an obsession with strange old books. His outfits are clashingly bad, but he can't really help it; he is color blind. He never says goodbye when he is on the phone; he just hangs up, which can leave you talking to a dial tone if you aren't careful. His penny-pinching ways are famous in the family (we all ordered off the children's menu until well into adolescence), and he was famous for not ordering himself anything when we went out to eat. Then, you better eat quickly because the "are you gonna finish that" comments would start about 2 minutes in. But mostly, Awkward Grandpa is rather ill-named. He is solid, smart, seemingly serious, startlingly sarcastic, scholarly, significantly sloppy, and secretly sweet, but that is too long and I am too lazy to type that out every time.

Awkward Grandpa is forever bailing us out of trouble. The rest of us are awkward with quick tempers, so you can imagine how well that goes. I have never seen my father yell. Ever. This is not to say that he isn't scary on occasion. My favorite memory of his secret intimidation goes like this:

I was in Omaha, rooming with a girl during college. Well, she took off with some guy, leaving me with our apartment and the entire rent. I was trying to get out of paying her share because I was 20 and had like $12 total. The landlord wouldn't budge. He wanted his money and didn't care where it came from. I called my father, who calmed me down and asked me for the landlord's number. I gave it to him and he hung up, only to call me like 10 minutes later, saying it was all taken care of. I just stared at the phone for awhile. Finally, I asked him what he did. This is what he said, "Oh, I just explained to him the situation, that you didn't have the money. That half was better than nothing. That I happen to know the attorney general of Nebraska. That the other girl is really responsible under the lease. You know." Don't ever get on the wrong side of Awkward Grandpa, you won't know what hit you until it has hit you. Hard.

 My father can play any instrument that exists and he can sing. He tells stories as well as his own father, and he was Irish, so you know his storytelling ability was legendary. Seriously, name a city in the Continental United States, and my father will have a story about an adventure he had there once. He hates Halloween, but he still lets my mother turn their house into a veritable haunted house every year. He has more interests than he has books, and he has an entire library of those. His speech at my wedding involved the historical relevance the traditions involved and I am pretty sure he even got ancient Macedonia in there somewhere. Then, he turned around and played Moon River for my first dance:

I bawled my eyes out. 

Awkward Grandpa loves all his grandchildren, but he has a special bond with Super Toddler. Super Toddler, in turn, adores Awkward Grandpa. His new favorite game is to tell me that Awkward Grandpa has come over (an impressive feat given that Awkward Grandpa is in Illinois and not apt to stroll to Ann Arbor for lunch). Super Toddler fixes this slight wrinkle by saying that Grandpa is invisible and here to play just with him. They have grand adventures together throughout the house. They also have grand adventures when Awkward Grandpa is visible:

 Peeking at his mini-me. 
And yes, I know, they have matching hair-dos.

So, that is my dilemma: Awkward Grandpa isn't really awkward. What to do? Oh well, maybe he is awkward in that he carries a recessive awkward gene. I mean, he must, right? He is my father, after all. Awkward Grandpa it is then! 

Only thing awkward here is that beard...
Happy Birthday, Dad! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rookie Mom vs. Dad’s out of town trip

Awesome Mom (pay no attention to what she calls herself in the heading) has a guest post for us all! Let's read, shall we: 

So, I’m not new to this mom stuff.  But, as the parent working outside of the home, I often feel like the rookie mom.  I’ll say to my husband “did you hear, Awesome Baby said ‘bus’?!?” and he responds with a ho-hum “oh yeah, he started saying that last week.  Didn’t I tell you?”.  I don’t know all of their routines, and while the kids will put up with my lack of skill on the weekends, mid-week is a whole different story.  Well, this week, I am battling my husband’s two day out of town trip.  While Awesome Preschooler has vacation bible school (VBS).  And I need to keep up with work from home.  I need survival skills and I need them now!  So, here are my 5 things to do to set yourself up for success if you’re feeling like a rookie parent like I am.

Be nice to yourself

On a good day, sleep is at a premium around here.  As the solo parent, it’s non-existent.  So, I make sure to stay up late, worry a lot and watch a scary show before bed.  Hey, why not, right?  But let me tell you what, that coffee I buy after dropping off Awesome Preschooler at VBS tastes amazing and it will power me through until at least lunch time.

Be flexible

So my big plan to work at home while Awesome Preschooler is at VBS and Awesome Baby is napping was completely foiled by Awesome Baby sleeping in.  After a little whining to Awkward Mom, I sucked it up and enjoyed a few hours walking around Target with Awesome Baby.  We lost his baseball cap and touched everything in the dollar aisle.  That counts as quality time and me being flexible.  Win/win.  And, the work got done while I was staying up late anyway.

Take care of “stuff” when they’re sleeping

Whenever I’m home with kids when I would otherwise be working, I have visions of getting “so much done!”.  Right… Any stuff I need to do is best done when they are sleeping, since I haven’t figured out that skill parents who stay home have to do 1,800 things while still making their kids feel like they are being attended to.  What do they call that skill, anyway?  Needless to say, I was able to work, shower, pick up the house, and talk to my husband in a record three hours.  I’m feeling pretty accomplished, in spite of it all.

Ask for help

This is probably the most important tip of all.  Just because my husband can do it all every day, doesn’t mean I have to.  Asking for help kept my sanity during this madness.  A generous friend of mine was able to bring Awesome Preschooler home after VBS to play with her son while I was waiting for Awesome Baby’s nap to finish.  That gave me a chance to do some “stuff” and also prep for the madness that includes “the witching hour”.  You know the witching hour – where your children lose their ever-loving minds right at the moment you are trying to get a nutritious dinner on the table.  Or some hot dogs and a grape.  That they eat 3 bites of and throw on the floor.

Be nice to your partner

This one might be tough.  Come on, he ditched me for two days/three nights with these crazy people and all they want is him!  It’s all they talk about.  He really doesn’t need to hear about how Awesome Baby woke up at 5 am and never really went to sleep again, right?  He doesn’t need to hear about the epic bath that resulted in an almost flood, right?  No, he needs to hear that we miss him, we’re keeping ourselves busy and that the house is still standing.  Oh, and maybe I should warn him about all of those Starbucks charges on the debit card.  Or not…

That was....wait for it......AWESOME! Thanks for sharing, Awesome Mom! 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Hipsters

Dear Hipster Couple that chose to judge and mock my parenting decisions in loud whispers, with lots of eye-rolls and giggles, this evening at the Saline Road Meijer:

1. I can totally hear you.

2. I am gonna assume that my hearing you is on purpose and not because you are too stupid to understand the age-old art of whispering, otherwise known as talking-quietly-so-people-won't-hear-you-saying-dumb-and-thoughtless-things-about-them-behind-their-backs.

3. I can see your cart, and I think the quinoa is gonna be cancelled out by the Fruit Loops. Just saying.

4. I know that you probably got up like 5 hours ago, but some of us have been changing diapers since dawn and are just not in the mood to deal with this level of immaturity in the cereal aisle.

5. My daughter is adorable the way she is and doesn't need "a good wipe-down and a cuter pair of shoes." She is also hipper at not-even-2, than you 2 are at pushing-25.

6. Your Hipster cred is done no favors by the fact that you are shopping at a Meijer at 7:30 at night. You do know that Trader Joe's is still open, right?

7. You oughta watch it with the "when I am a parent, I will NEVER..." comments. Mostly because they are rude. Also, you freely admit you are not a parent and therefore have no idea what I have gone through today and what it is costing me to hold it together to finish my shopping and not bean you both with some boxes of pop-tarts.

8. You should also watch your "NEVER" comments because you are Hipsters. Ergo, you have Hipster friends. Hipster friends who are gonna never let you live it down when you do become parents and do all the things that you said you were never gonna do (because it happens to the hippest of us). They are not gonna do this because they aren't your friends. They are gonna do this because they are Hipsters and love irony.

9. Look, I love Converse too. But the addition of matching skinny jeans, impossibly ironic graphic tees, and oddly shaped glasses have you about two weather-inappropriate-infinity-scarfs away from front row at a Bon Iver concert. Sweeties, it's supposed to be a "look," not a "uniform."

10. I am not mad at ya. You are bored in a Meijer and I look like a good target to practice your sarcasm skills on. Do what you gotta do. All I wish for you both is a happy and long life together. And about 3 sets of twins.

Love yas,

Awkward Mom

Awkward Mom vs. Vacation Bible School

Despite the name, Vacation Bible School is not actually a vacation. Let me rephrase that; Vacation Bible School is not a vacation for those of us who are volunteering in the nursery, where someone is crying, constantly, for a solid 3 hours. Sometimes that person is me. 

Holy Awkward, Batman! Literally. 
OK, well, it might be more literal to say: Holy Awkward, St. Paul! 
Catch ya'll at the end of the week with the details! 

This picture of Super Baby in front of a giant intestinal tract has nothing whatsoever to do with Vacation Bible School, except that my face resembles hers a lot this week. Back after a 4-day nap! 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. THAT Mom

Oh, yes, Readers. It's happening. Capital letters THAT Mom. 

Well, Readers, it has finally happened. Years of awkward training has at last paid off and the waiting is over. I am officially THAT Mom. You all know who I am talking about. The mom that makes all other moms say, "Bless her Heart, but..." The mom that makes all the other moms look sane. The one that all the Perfect Moms look at out the sides of their eyes because to look directly at THAT Mom would surely produce some sort of Medusa-like horror. The mom that just can't hold it together until bedtime. The mom that all the other moms don't really want to claim. The mom that the other moms all roll their eyes at, breathe a sigh of relief, and whisper, "Well, at least I'm not like THAT Mom." Well, I am THAT Mom and here is why:

Because I seriously unpacked 3 pantyliners, 2 baby food pouches, an Aldi granola bar, a Ziploc bag full of spare clothes, 4 loose graham crackers, a cheese stick wrapper, and 9 Color-Wonder markers out of a stained old backpack while looking for a bandaid before the Perfect Mom next to me proceeded to produce one out of her monogrammed diaper bag. I thanked her and then fed the toddler the Aldi granola bar under the No Food in the Play Area sign and the increasingly annoyed glares of the Perfect Mom. I am THAT Mom.

Because daily summer Freezie-Pops are a perfectly acceptable occurrence in my house. And if you want to eat them on the couch, go at it. I am THAT Mom.

Because I can't muster up any interest in milestones and I actually don't know when they are supposed to happen because I let my children color all over the handouts that the doctor's office gives me. And I can't pretend to be fascinated when random moms tell me how their 8-month-olds are walking or that their 16-month-olds potty trained or that everyone in their house under 5 is playing the violin. All I can do is stare at them blankly until they change the subject or go away. I am THAT Mom.

Because I don't see anything wrong with giving kids occasional underdogs while they are on the swings. I am THAT Mom.

Because sometimes the first thought I have in the morning is "How long until I get to go back to bed?" I am THAT Mom.

Because I have lost the Butt Battle. If my child hits yours, I am there in a flash to deal with it. If my child won't share with yours, I am all over it. If my child tells your child a dirty joke whose sole punchline is the word "Butt" followed by hysterical laughter and uncontrolled snorting, you are on your own. I am not getting up for that. I am THAT Mom.

Because if you want to climb up the slide while no one is coming down the slide, feel free. I am THAT Mom.

Because I don't want to talk about potty training. I am thrilled that your baby potty trained in 1 hour. My children seem to average about 2 years to figure it out, and yes, the 3-year-old is still wearing a diaper. Fair warning; if you say anything to me about that, I am going to announce to the park, in my loudest voice, "Wow. You seem inordinately interested in what is going on in my son's pants." I am THAT Mom.

Because I just don't want to make my own laundry detergent. I am THAT Mom.

Because sometimes I just drive around because the car has air conditioning and my children are strapped in and can't paw at me and I can turn up the radio and pretend I can't hear their incessant requests for snacks and stories and sweets. Plus, I'm already late; might as well take the long way. I am THAT Mom.

Because it is way more important to me that my children are kind, generous, and happy than smart, talented, or first. I am THAT Mom.

Because sometimes it is just easier to let the child throw herself on the ground and wail it on out. We are at the park, not the library, so let's cool it with the concerned looks and whispers. Tantrums happen. I am THAT Mom.

Because grapes, graham crackers, carrots, and cheese sticks hits the major food groups and is just fine for dinner. I am THAT Mom.

Because I change my baby's diaper in the trunk of my van in the parking lot of Target. If you don't want to see, or smell, park somewhere else. I am THAT Mom.

Because even though I know that I am not prepared, under-staffed, and way outnumbered, I am still taking them to the zoo/museum/water park. I am THAT Mom.

Because I am never buying an Elf on the Shelf; it's creepy and too much work. I am THAT Mom.

Because I don't think being a stay-at-home mom means that I have to give up my entire identity and actually stay in my home every second of the day. I don't think being a stay-at-home mom means I have to be civil when asked when I am "going back to work." I don't think being a stay-at-home mom means that I suddenly have to be good at cooking and cleaning and crafts. I don't think being a stay-at-home mom means that I didn't make, and don't daily make, sacrifices, changes, and contributions to society, in order to raise my children, and I don't think that it means I have to be in a rapturous  state of gratitude every single second of the day that I am "allowed" to stay home and raise them. I think being a stay-at-home mom is complicated and that it means what it means for me and no one else. I am THAT Mom.

Because I am just gonna buy the hummus; tahini is expensive. I am THAT Mom.

Because yes, I sure am gonna give her back the sippy cup that she flung onto the floor, random Grandma who picked it up and didn't want to return it to me because it is now "filthy." Immune systems gotta grow somehow. I am THAT Mom.

Because as I laid there on the living room floor with a brutal case of the why-is-it-only-4:30s, I told the children they could do whatever they wanted, just "please, don't kill each other." I am THAT Mom.

Because I had a 10 minute stand-off in the front lawn with my toddler because I was not going to pick up the box of crackers he threw on the ground. I hope you got a good show, lady who drove slowly by twice. He did pick it up. I am THAT Mom.

 Because I let my 20-month-old baby throw paper airplanes in the room-sized wind tunnel with a 4th grade field trip and adamantly refused to "get her out of the way." She needs to learn too, and if she is pushed down, she will get back up. She is strong and I am 3 feet away. Your 4th graders could also learn a little patience and care, as well. No one owns the museum. I am THAT Mom.

Because box-mix Brownies are still Brownies. I am THAT Mom.

Because I am just trying to get them to adulthood over here, anyway I can. I am THAT Mom.

Because we did this. And it was awesome. I am THAT Mom. 

I am THAT Mom. And I no longer think THAT is altogether a bad thing. I am just gonna be Super Preschooler's Mom. Super Toddler's Mom. Super Baby's Mom. Super anyone else who wants to someday show up's Mom. That is the best I can do. And if other moms want to look at me and roll their eyes and use me to make themselves feel like better moms, that is totally fine with me. We all need a little confidence sometimes and I don't mind being a rung on your ladder to better self-esteem. Do what you need to do, I will happily be THAT Mom for you. Because I just read that list and don't really think any of it is gonna scar my children, ruin their childhood, or generate awful adults. You other moms out there do whatever you need to do for your children and think about me any ol' way you please. It's totally cool. 

Just don't you dare come over here with any of your potty training tips, because THIS Mom does not play around with that and will call you out on your bragging. Don't lie; that's what it is. Fair warning. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. the Movie Theater

You're gonna need a bigger post....

I might like movies, a little bit. OK, a lot bit. You gotta admit that as far as art forms go, they are pretty rockin'; explosions, romance, spaceships, drama, soaring scores, creepy surprises that make you jump out of your seat, adorable kid actors, adorable adult actors. The whole of human existence, in all its glory and flaws, parading by in a Technicolor whirlwind, while you eat butter with a little popcorn thrown in to make it less decadent. Pretty rockin'.  One of my earliest memories is watching The Wizard of Oz in my childhood living room, hunkered down behind the couch with Uncle Awkward, where the flying monkeys couldn't get us. One of Awkward Dad's earliest memories is seeing Empire Strikes Back in the theater. I use the word "seeing" loosely; he claims he "watched" most of it through closed eyelids due to the intensity and enjoyed it with his other senses. It says a great deal for George Lucas' storytelling that Empire and it's Star Wars cronies remain some of Awkward Dad's favorite films.

It is no surprise we found each other, with that kind of movie-love blossoming from such an early age. And it is no surprise that we want to pass that movie love onto the Supers. Passing this love on is proving trickier than I would have assumed. Now, I'm not gonna lie, getting them to watch movies isn't hard at all. The Supers have been watching movies, Awkward-Dad-Empire-style, since they were in utero. Can't exactly avoid it; movies are always on around here, even before we got Netflix streaming. The Supers love movies. At home. Because getting them to watch movies at home is like fighting Colonel Stuart from Die Hard 2; the plan isn't that complex and although the villain is crazy, he/it is pretty manageable. Bruce Willis has his tricks and I have mine. Mine happen to be more in the candy variety, but whatever works. No, movies at home are cool. Movies at the movie theater are a whole other thing. Movies at the movie theater is like going up against Hans Gruber; arguably one of the greatest movie villains of all time, incredible intelligent and intense, and Alan Rickman. Who wants to tangle with that?! Well, apparently, the Awkwards do. Yippie kay yay....

When Super Preschooler was 18-months-old and Super Toddler was happily kicking me from within and demanding guacamole daily, Awkward Dad had a birthday. I don't remember which one because I don't think I have slept in 5 and a half years, but it was his birthday and he wanted to go to the movies. We were in a movie drought because we were too scared to hire a babysitter (Ah, first child issues) and too proud to rely on our friends. Awkward Dad decided that 18-months-old was plenty old to see a movie at the theater, and we took Super Preschooler to see Up. It was magical. Because Up is a magical, beautiful movie, but the experience was also magical. Super Preschooler has always been a imaginative, creative child with a thing for jujyfruits. The movie theater is perfect for him. He sat between us on a seat that his tiny body couldn't hold down on its own, so Awkward Dad and I each held it down with our knees. We cuddled there and watched a million balloons carry a house to South America. He was quiet. He was fascinated. He ate all the candy, but no matter. It was lovely.

Fast forward to Super Toddler being 18-months-old and Super Baby kicking me from within and demanding maraschino cherries daily, and it is no one birthday but Cars II is coming out. Memories of Super Preschooler's angelic introduction to the movie theater fairly fresh in our minds and confident that Super Toddler's love for all things automotive will carry us through, we troop off to the movie theater. It wasn't the magical Up experience, but it was close. Super Preschooler loved it, but he was old hat at this point and had been to about a dozen movies. Super Toddler was fascinated by the lights, the sounds, the popcorn, and all those Cars. I don't know if we could have gotten away with another movie. Subject matter is what moves Super Toddler in terms of movies; i.e. it better have a lot of explosions, guns, and car chases. This had all three, so he was pleased. Inclined to wander toward the end, but pleased. He has been back a couple time since, only to the more actiony of the children's movies, and he is usually quite well-behaved.

Fast forward to Super Baby being 18-months-old (last month, which means she was technically 19-months-old) and no one is kicking me but I still want some guacamole, and it is definitely no one's birthday but Awkward Dad has the day off, which is basically like a birthday, and everyone wants to see Monsters University. Or be in air conditioning and eat popcorn. Same thing. So, Awkward Dad and I look at Super Baby and decide to risk it. She likes home movies; she is pretty good at  fighting Colonel Stuart, let's see what she does with Hans Gruber. Well, I'll tell you what Super Baby does with Hans Gruber; she joins him. Didn't even take a minute to think about it. She eats all the popcorn and then defects to the dark side. Baby girl is a movie terrorist with a taste for the villains. Which should have surprised no one.

We are there maybe 10 minutes before Super Baby shows her true colors. The previews are still going on. Sitting on Awkward Dad's lap, she has been feasting on the bucket of popcorn that I am holding in my lap, happy and looking around like an innocent little bird. She sighs contently and kicks off her shoes. I would put them back on but it is dark and she is going to be sitting on Awkward Dad's lap, peacefully watching the movie, right? We'll get them later. This is when Super Baby simply flies off Awkward Dad's lap (seriously, I am sure she levitates for a good 4 seconds), grabs the popcorn bucket, and races into the aisle. Shoeless. She dumps the remaining popcorn on her head, pulls the bucket down over her face to make a jaunty hat, and proceeds to walk down the steps toward the screen. Awkward Dad appears to teleport to her side in the time it takes me to truly understand what is going on, and chases her down the steps. She does this for the REST OF THE MOVIE. Oh, sometimes she runs up the steps. Sometimes she runs into the row behind us to delight the pre-teen girls sitting there. Once she gets all the way to the screen, which gives more credence to my levitation theory. Awkward Dad never sits down for the next 2 hours, bless him. And since I have to "watch the Super Boys" (who are a little miffed about the lack of popcorn but otherwise cool), I can't exactly help him, now can I? Needless to say, Super Baby will not be going to the movies anytime soon. True movie-love takes time, so we haven't given up on her yet. Of course, we are thinking that for her next movie battle, maybe we should go up against someone a little less intimating than Hans Gruber. So, we are looking into Drive-in Movies; the Simon Gruber of the movie world. Wish us luck!

Oh, and yeah, the shoes never make it back on her until the credits, so either she has undetected ebola now or the strongest immune system in the 
Western Hemisphere. 

You mean I had the power to leave this post anytime I wanted? All I had to do was click my mouse together 3 times? I'm with the Scarecrow, lady, you should told me that before! 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Pollyanna - part 2

What's more Pollyanna that posting about Pollyanna/Awkward Dad twice; gotta squeeze all the glad out of it, you know. 

So, remember how I was telling you guys that Awkward Dad is basically this Fozzie Bear/Pollyanna hybrid with slightly less hair? And how annoying it can be to live with someone who is always looking on the bright side of things, especially loud children's games and family movie night? Someone who turns every pile of lemons into a pitcher of zoo lemonade? Well, I can't believe that I forgot to pull a Pollyanna of my own and tell you the good things about living with a Pollyanna. Just goes to show that I am not a natural Pollyanna, I suppose.  

The most positive thing about living with a Pollyanna is that he will Pollyanna all over you and your million faults. Everyday of your life. A few examples:

1. Me: I have the worst temper! 
Awkward Dad: You have a lot of passion and I am so glad to have you in my corner. 

2. Me: My hair won't do what I want it to do today!
Awkward Dad: It is just trying to tell you to let it down and be naturally beautiful.

3. Me: I wish I learned how to do makeup.
Awkward Dad: And cover up all those adorable freckles? 

4. Me: This house is such a mess; I'm a terrible housekeeper.
Awkward Dad: That just means you are too busy raising wonderful children to have time to clean.
Me: You know full well I was reading a novel half the day.
Awkward Dad: That just means you have an active creative mind and will teach the children self-reliance and that they are not the center of the universe, plus that books are awesome.  

5. Me: I am so fat. 
Awkward Dad: Your body has given us three healthy wonderful children and deserves to be talked to nicely.
Me: Ugh!
Awkward Dad: Plus, those curves make you look like a more modesty dressed Botticelli Venus. 

6. Me: I am such a nerd!
Awkward Dad: Yes, you are! I love that; wanna go read some comics?

7. Me: I am so bad at balancing our checkbook!
Awkward Dad: I am sure the bank will alert us if we run out of money.
Me: But I should be more organized!
Awkward Dad: Why? The lights are on. We have food. Netflix works. 

8. Me: I should be homeschooling the children.
Awkward Dad: Do you want to?
Me: No. But I should want to. 
Awkward Dad: No, the only should here is that their first encounter with education should be positive and joyful and not with someone who thinks she needs to compete with other moms who are just more naturally drawn in a direction that she is not. There is time enough to learn to spell and count; just love them your own way. It's a pretty awesome way. 

9. Me: I didn't make dinner.
Awkward Dad: Awesome! I was craving pizza anyway. 

10. Me: I suck. Why do you even stay married to me?
Awkward Dad: It would take too long to list everything I like about you. But mostly because I love you. 
Me: But I am not Perfect Mom. 
Awkward Dad: No, you aren't perfect. Thank goodness! Perfect is so boring. My awkward adventure of marriage to you and parenthood with you is the most wonderful aspect of my life. If you think that I would trade that for some kind of sterile, boring, predictable, waiting-room-stay with a Perfect Mom, then you aren't Awkward Mom, you are Crazy Mom. 
Me: But I don't deserve you.
Awkward Dad: I don't deserve you either, that's what makes it love and not a business partnership. Now, can we watch the Avengers? Those kids aren't gonna sleep forever. 

I tell you, he is relentless. A person's naturally low self-esteem doesn't stand a chance under an onslaught like that. Therefore, when I start to get a big head over here and think I am not the awkward mess that I really am, you all know who to blame; Awkward Dad and his daily barrage of compliments and undeserved sweetness. So happy that he decided to be a hero, can you imagine that level of power in the hands of a super-villain? Yikes!

Me: Are you sure this dress is OK? Is my hair too short? 
I'm not sure these flowers are bright enough.
Awkward Dad: I respect you deeply and mean this from a place of love, 
but I need you to shut up and kiss me.
Me: .....OK. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Pollyanna

"Oh, yes; the game was to just find something about everything to be glad about—no matter what 'twas.” OK, well, thanks for that, Pollyanna, but couldn't we just play Scrabble instead?

If you want a shortcut into a person's personality, just ask them who his/her favorite Muppet is. If this person can't name one, you need  to get out of there, RIGHT NOW. But odds are fairly good that he or she will be able to come up with an answer; the Muppets magically transcend generation and culture that way. Now, I actually have 2 favorite Muppets. I appreciate Rowlf the Dog for his sarcastic humor and easy-going nature; I aspire to be more like Rowlf. But the reality is that I am much more like my second favorite Muppet, Gonzo the Great; kinda misplaced, slightly neurotic, and really odd, with an absolute delight in the weird and wacky. I am sure none of this is a surprise to you guys and I am not here to talk about me and the Muppets, as delightful as that sounds. I am here to tell you that Awkward Dad's favorite Muppet is Fozzie Bear. And that is all you really need to know about Awkward Dad and how insufferable he is to live with sometimes.

Awkward Dad basically is Fozzie Bear. Oh, his jokes are much funnier and he is slightly more inclined to wear pants. Slightly. But at heart, he resembles that lovable fuzzy comic in so many ways. Fozzie and Awkward Dad both spread glee everywhere they go with an easy, slightly nerdy, charm. Both are kinda unsure of themselves at times but always willing to try new things. Both are true-blue friends. Awkward Dad maintains Fozzie's gentle perseverance and cheerfulness, even when faced with life's Statlers and Waldorfs. They aren't gonna get him down. Both Fozzie and Awkward Dad are basically big teddy bears, perhaps one more literally than the other, and they are both born Pollyannas.

I am not a Pollyanna. Frankly, Pollyanna makes me want to gag. She brings out my inner goth, but Awkward Dad totally gets Pollyanna. That man could find joy in a jar of tears. He is forever looking on the bright side of things, and (here is the really annoying part) telling me to look on the bright side of things. Like yesterday. So yesterday, the Super Boys were full-on brawling in the backseat of the van. Hurling toys, yelling, laughing like crazed scientists, and conducting some strange game that involved a lot of the word "butt." I wanted them to stop. I was begging them to stop. I was screaming at them to stop. And here is Awkward Dad, "You know, Awkward Mom, you really should be grateful that your sons are healthy and able to play so energetically. Plus, they clearly enjoy playing with each other, not all siblings do. We should be grateful." Grateful, Readers. I should be grateful for a butt game that is being screamed at the back of my head in decibels that can be heard in space.

Awkward Dad likes the mess of having children. He likes the chaos and the cacophony that is the soundtrack of our lives. He likes it when the children want to start a band in the middle of dinner. He likes the water park and the pool and the playground. He is fine with sand. He'll hang out on the floor and play Transformers for hours. He will voluntarily get out the playdough. And he doesn't do these things like me; not really loving it but doing them because I love my children. No, he is totally happy about doing them in general. Most stuff is like that with Awkward Dad; suggest an activity and he is up for it. Introduce a topic and he wants to hear all about it. Start a game and he wants to play. For him, the world is a magical place, full of adventures just waiting to happen and people just waiting to be friends. He is Pollyanna, who says "Just breathing isn't living." Awkward Dad loves life and he is gonna love every second of it, in his lovable Fozzie Bear style.

Awkward Dad is just a happy person, and he so wants me to be happy. Now, I am no Oscar the Grouch, but I definitely have a strong sense of sarcasm and cynicism that I have carefully cultivated over a childhood and adolescence of being mostly unpopular, defiantly plain, and a whole lot Gonzo. It was a defense and a shield, and it is really hard to drop defenses and take down shields. You get used to them being there, they are comfortable and they feel safe. I am happy, not insane Pollyanna happy like Awkward Dad, but quietly and contently happy.

However, my shields aren't exactly sure that they want anyone else knowing I am happy. Openly happy people are not shielded. Happy people are vulnerable. Happy people are gonna make others jealous.  People who are gonna wanna steal that happiness or at least tear it down. People like Statler and Waldorf. And I am not Fozzie Bear or Awkward Dad, who just look at Statler and Waldorf with wise and kind understanding because they know that the barbs and the hurled hate come from a deep sadness and insecurity within the Statlers and the Waldorfs that has nothing to do with Fozzie and Awkward Dad or their worth as people. Or a person and a bear, in this case.

None of this makes me particularly happy about the yelling butt game, but I get what Awkward Dad is saying. There is nothing wrong with enjoying life, even messy, weird, imperfect life. And there is nothing wrong with letting people (especially the children you are guiding on this journey) know that you enjoy life and it is OK if they enjoy it too. Even if they are enjoying it rather loudly. While I am never gonna let go of Rowlf and Gonzo, there is certainly room in my heart for a little Fozzie. My heart certainly made a whole lotta room for Awkward Dad. I don't think I am ever gonna be (or even like) Pollyanna. There is something preachy and holy-than-thou about her. But positive, hopeful, happy, the grass is just fine on this side of the fence Fozzie Bear? Yeah, I think I can learn to love him and maybe even be a little more like him. That would make Awkward Dad happy. OK, well, happier then.

As Fozzie says, "I'm a professional. I've had three performances." Enthusiasm and belief can make up for a dearth of experience, and sometimes that is the only way to get a foot in there to get any experience in the first place.

Upon reflection, Awkward Dad may have more than a little Gonzo in him as well....

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. The Pool Rules

Cannonball! I think we know who is going to win this one.....

So, I spend a great deal of my summer at the public pool, squinting at the rules sign (no sane person wears her glasses to the splash-fest that is the public pool) and trying to figure out why it is even posted so prominently. No one ever follows them. Therefore, here is my humble contribution of Pool Rules that I think we should treat a little more seriously than "shower before entering the pool." Seriously, does anyone do that?

1. No Bikinis. OK, don't glare at me. If you just have to show off those hard-won abs in an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot number, maybe you could do it over there by the adult pool. I am sure the tanning teenagers and lap-swimming grandmothers will be suitably impressed. But over there in the Tot Pool, all you are doing is generating tidal waves of jealousy and awkward toddler questions like "what's Cabo '99 and why does that Mommy write it on her bottom?" So, no Bikinis in the Tot Pool, for all of our sakes.

2. While we are on the subject of bathing attire, let's all agree to let the children wear what they please. Or rather, what the parents feel up to putting them in. I am all for the public pool's current rule on swim diapers, but after that, do your thing, Parents. Just the swim diaper, some trunks, full Michael-Phelps-level racing suits, SPF 1000000 tops with hats, a t-shirt and some suit-like shorts. I'll even allow baby girl bikinis with ruffle butts, but I will be judging you silently in my mind, fair warning. Children are hard to catch, let alone sunscreen and clothe when they have "going to the pool!" on the mind, and the locker room is a nightmare of horror movie lighting and questionable puddles that is best left quickly. I'm impressed your children are wearing anything at all, so jump on in!

3. With that in mind, please treat this next one like a gentle suggestion rather than a rule. The Tot Pool is 2'6 feet at it's deepest and I am not trying to judge you (no, really, I'm not), but perhaps, just maybe, the combination of life-jacket, floatation ring, lifeguard, and you being 1 foot away is a bit much for Perfect Toddler. Just a thought. I mean, is he even getting wet?

4. Splashing! This is the Tot Pool and we wouldn't have it any other way.

5. Now, I don't know how your public pool does it, but ours has a ton of pool/beach toys that just hang out on the edge of the pool and any child can play with. If your child brings his/her own toys from home and then sets these toys amid the pool toys and another child comes along and picks it up to play with it, I think your child's hysterics might be greeted with something other than your loud protestations that the "offending" child is a "thief." It was an honest mistake and really, how many plastic watering cans does the pool need? Just leave the toys at home, one less thing to carry!

6. Speaking of stuff, if mine is on a chair, that is the universal sign for "I will be using this chair over the course of my visit to the pool," not that I just set my stuff down so that you could move it to a less desirable location when I wasn't looking. This isn't musical chairs, folks. Hands off other people's towels.

7. This pool is full of pee. Now, I know that we are all trying our best to enforce potty breaks and the swim diapers catch the...ummm...big stuff, but let's be real; we are all wading in urine-laced pool water. Take comfort in the fact that there are some heavy-duty chemicals helping out here and that if parenthood has taught you anything, it is your way around some fairly disgusting bodily fluids. Have no delusions, the big pool is full of pee too; those teenagers look totally shifty. Let's have this pee-pool be one of those things that we all know but silently agree not to talk about, like that no one pays attention to serving sizes and that everyone secretly picks their nose. (Using a tissue to cover up your finger doesn't make it not-picking, just saying.)

8. No running. Unless you are running to catch a toddler heading straight for the deep end or Super Baby decides it is a game to run as fast as she can, into the men's room. Sometimes the fast-walk just won't cut it.

9. There is going to be snack envy. Some of you are just more skilled in the culinary arts and apt to create Bento Boxes, filled with hummus, matchsticked carrots, and pita cookie-cut into fish shapes. Take some photos for Pinterest and enjoy, but be prepared for poor, sad children, with less enterprising mothers, to drop their goldfish and raisin boxes to stare of at you and yours as you eat your bountiful creations. It's the risk of dining al fresco, my Friends. I'll try to keep them from drooling on you, but no promises.

10. No cameras. Now, I know that you want to create memories and need material of Perfect Baby's first pool outing for your latest scrapbook, but I warn you now: there are going to be some tired, pale, bloated, hassled, running after Super Baby in a too-tight old maternity swim-suit blurs in the background that might be Awkward Mom or might be the first ever documented proof of a rare aquatic Sasquatch. If you are good with Photo Shop, then feel free to snap away. If not, maybe you should stick to bath photos for the time being.

We thought we would type it up pretty and take it over to the public pool tomorrow to see if they want to hang it up. Don't see why they wouldn't; this stuff is gold!

As a true follower of the Pool Rules (especially rule #10), Awkward Mom only has these photos of the Supers at the pool because Super Preschooler took them himself. Sneaky Super P.......

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. the Fourth of July

Dear Readers, suppose you are wondering where we have been wandering. Well, we made a trek to the Ancestral Awkward Abode to acquire ammunition and antics for your amusement. We spent nearly a week trying to get Super Baby to love horses (successful, by the way), trying to get Super Toddler off of Awkward Grandpa's riding lawnmower (less successful), and trying to figure out which awkward relatives in the family tree really were more awkward than usual (quite a few, it appears). Tales to tell, Readers! We have got tons of tales to tell! 

But I can't tell you them right now. Because someone (cough cough Awkward Dad cough) did not download the pictures onto the computer, like I asked 3 different times, and then he took the phone that they are on to work. Therefore, all I have to show you are the ones that I already put on Facebook. Since nearly all of you are related to me and were actually there this past week, or are Facebook friends with me and have already seen these, it seems rather silly to just show the same pictures. However, sometimes awkward masquerades as silly, so here you go:

Super Baby awaiting the horse she is now in love with. 

Awkward Grandma and Super Preschooler coloring, 
very seriously for some reason.

Awkward Grandpa giving Super Toddler the first of approximately 1435 lawnmower rides. 

That's it. Seriously, that is it. Well, Readers, take it up with Awkward Dad then. Maybe if you tell him to download the pictures, he actually will. Stranger things have happened! 

Well, at least they are safe and home and having even more adventures! There have been pool trips, Super Preschooler has started Safety Town, and the time honored summer-time tradition of all sleeping in the same 1 air-conditioned room that they have has begun. So, not much sleep, but tons of adventure, stay tuned! 

This is what Super Baby thinks of people who say they are going to download pictures and then don't do it. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Out Being Awkward

We're out gathering material for our next awkward blog post! 
Catch ya on the flip side! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. the Special Olympic Swim Meet

Ah, we have finally arrived at the meat (meet!) of the matter. And no, we don't mean when they ate Sonic hot dogs while watching a Wipe-out marathon after Awkward Great-Grandma and Awkward Grandpa left and things returned to slothful normal in Normal, Illinois. (Oh, the wordplay today, Readers! We are on fire!) No, we are talking about Awkward Uncle's actual swim meet, or the entire reason we are at the Illinois Special Olympics in the first place. 

Early in Awkward Uncle's swim career, when he was a green, young high school swimmer just learning to do that amazing flipping thing they do in the water when they get to the wall, we, his loyal spectators, were a little green and young too. We weren't quite sure how things went or what our roles as supporters really entailed; thus, our first Special Olympics or 2 (maybe 3, we are slow learners), we would spent the entire Saturday of the Special Olympics on the bleachers of the indoor pool. The entire day. Oh sure, there were bathroom breaks and sometimes one of us would go in search of food, but mostly, we would just sit there, slowly melting in the June/pool humidity, eagerly staring at the doorway for any sign of Awkward Uncle little blond head. This is a relatively insane plan, but for all the sweating and swearing that happened, it was actually a great introduction to the magic of the Special Olympics. I can not tell you how many times we got to witness those wonderful moments when someone swimming dead-last finally reaches the wall and the crowd erupts into wild Micheal-Phelps-level cheering or the swimmers smile and congratulate each other in such true and happy sportsmanship that you wish they could teach lessons to the "real Olympians." We would routinely burst into tears at the sheer magic of it all. Or we were just really hot and tired of sitting there, but I like to think that those early years were necessary to really get us aware of how special the Special Olympics really are.

About 3 years in, Awkward Uncle's coach finally took pity on us and started telling us what time the races were going to be. Probably could have figured this out ourselves, as the times are taped to the wall in the prep-area where the swimmers wait, but, like I said, we are kinda slow learners. After that, we would breeze in about a half-hour before his races, cheer wildly, and hang out for his medal presentation, before heading over to the prep-area for slightly damp hugs and 800 pictures. Then, we would wander around the rest of the Special Olympics (which was a whole other revelation and education, with crying jags aplenty) before his next race. There was one year that he swan on a Friday (rare), and we ended up seeing him randomly outside of a cookout already wearing a gold medal. Didn't really know what to do with ourselves that year. But most years, things were down to a science of folks meeting here and there (even in the years before we had cell phones!), scheduled food breaks, a visit to the weight-lifting because that is just awesome to watch, and everything would go off smoothly. Awkwardly, no doubt, but fairly smoothly. And then, I started having children.

Ah, the Supers. Yes, even the brief half-hour sittings in the pool are a struggle for them. Oh, it's easy enough when they are babies, especially because there are so many extra adults to hold them, but then they learn to move and they simply don't understand why they can't move right into that beautiful, cool, tempting pool. Even when they manage to avoid temptation and remain on the bleachers, it isn't like they sit still. No, they crawl up the bleachers. They crawl down the bleachers. They throw stuff under the bleachers. They play tag on the bleachers. And they have no concern that people around them might be, oh, I don't know, trying to watch the swim meets. No, they just kinda fall on people. And they have the vaguest idea that the swimmer we are pointing at and shouting at is their uncle; they kinda wave towards him and then resume falling on people we don't know. And they always pick the crabbiest, scariest looking person to do this to.

Like this year. So, this year, all three of the Supers are mobile, and Super Baby is the worst. She just plows through crowds like she is a tiny pig-tailed little tank. We find a spot and all is well for like 5 minutes as they try to figure out how to get over the railing and into the pool. When they tire of that, they start to wiggle. And wiggle right into the lady to our left who is trying to film her son with her iPhone while typing an email with her iPad. Needless to say, that doesn't go according to plan and the death glares she is shooting me and Awkward Grandma should really have an app of their own; they are totally deadly. We decide to move. And then, Super Toddler decides that Grandpa needs to wear his hat:

This jostles a few folks, but fortunately, they are not on any iDevices and actually fairly entertained by Super Toddler and his antics. As you can see from these photos, Awkward Grandma has corralled Super Baby and Super Preschooler is on the other side of the camera with Awkward Dad. Therefore, at least during the race, all was well.

And it was well! Awkward Uncle and his relay team came 3rd, after a tight and amazing finish by their anchor (I love swim terms, so nautical!). Plus, we were even close enough this year for some on-site photos that weren't blurry!

Awkward Uncle, post-race. Look how close he is! 

Peek-a-Boo! Seriously, he has never been this close to us, pool-side. 

Medal Ceremony.

Post-medal-ceremony wave to his fans. 

It was a great race, but naturally, the most awkward moment of the day came immediately afterward. So, we are looking for Awkward Uncle and can't find him. I call his cell phone and say, "where you at?" and this follows:

Awkward Uncle: I am sitting by the basketball game, eating lunch.

Me: Really? But that is right where we are.

Awkward Uncle: Yep.

Awkward Grandma: I don't see him.

Me: Well, he is right over here somewhere. Eating.

Super Toddler: Food!

Awkward Dad: Not yet.

Awkward Grandma: But that guy is wearing glasses.

*Awkward Uncle, now bespeckled , waves at us.*

Me: hmmm...Hi.

Awkward Uncle: Hi.

Awkward Grandma: Where did you get those glasses?

Awkward Uncle: Health fair.

Awkward Grandma: What does that mean?

Non-awkward Coach: We went to a health fair yesterday for fun and they tested his eyes and it turns out that he needs glasses so the Lions Club got him glasses for free.

Awkward Uncle: Told you. Health fair.

Never not awkward around here! Congrats to Awkward Uncle on his bronze medal! And his new glasses.....